Jewish Academy of Orlando fifth grade students partnered with with Muslim peers from Leadership Preparatory School and Christian peers from Geneva School in, “Trees for Peace,” a multifaith tree planting service held at Mead Gardens. The tree planting is the second of the schools’ 3-part Multifaith Education Program (MEP) that is now in its 16thyear. The students meet at each school to learn about each other’s cultures and religions. The program always includes a “Trees for Peace” component. This year’s tree planting took place at Mead Botanical Garden in Winter Park.
“Through the MEP our students have, not only the opportunity to learn about other faiths, but also to build bridges of understanding among their peers,” said Alan Rusonik, head of school.
The Multi-Faith Education Program began when its founder, Louise Franklin Sheehy, worked to foster a climate of peace among the children of the different Abrahamic faiths.
As part of the tree planting ceremony, a proclamation was read by Winter Park Vice Mayor Pete Weldona. Each school then proceeded to read some texts about nature and the environment from their respective faith traditions. Finally, the students went with Urban Forestry from the city of Winter Park to plant trees throughout Mead Botanical Garden.
When discussing interfaith dialogue, the Right Honorable Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, once said: “God has given us many faiths but only one world in which to co-exist. May [our interfaith] work help all of us cherish our commonalities and feel enlarged by our differences.” In this spirit, Head of School Rusonik continued, “We are proud that this program helps to promote understanding, peach and unity and gives our students some tools to change the world.”
Jewish Academy of Orlando serves central Florida students of all faiths from grades kindergarten through fifth. The school delivers a whole-child education fostering academic excellence and character education rooted in Jewish values. Jewish Academy of Orlando is accredited by the Florida Council of Independent Schools. Beginning in fall of 2019, the school will offer a transitional kindergarten.